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CT defense attorneyIn many communities, vandalism and minor property crimes, referred to as criminal mischief in Connecticut, are essentially considered a rite of passage for young men and women. However, law enforcement can and does take these offenses very seriously, especially if the amount of property damage is significant. If your child has been arrested for criminal mischief, you need to engage an attorney who understands the nature of both Connecticut’s juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.

Different Levels of Severity

Connecticut criminal mischief laws are designed to encompass a variety of crimes designed to damage property. The state statute covers not only classic property damage and vandalism, but also intentionally causing an interruption of services such as electricity and otherwise interfering with equipment or property belonging to a utility. Like with many different crimes in Connecticut, there are different degrees of criminal mischief, and the charge will depend on the level of damage caused by your child.

In adult court, the consequences for criminal mischief can vary from 3 months in jail up to 5 years, with fines ranging between $500 and $2,000. Intent is a major issue - you cannot ‘accidentally’ commit vandalism or criminal mischief. One may accidentally cause property damage, but if the damage is accidental, then by definition, no crime has been committed. Essentially, if the prosecution cannot establish that you had intent to cause the damage, they have little to no case.

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CT defense attorneyMost of the time, when juveniles commit crimes, they are judged in juvenile court, which tends to be more focused on rehabilitation than punishment. However, some crimes are too severe to be handled in the juvenile system, and the law allows for these young offenders to be tried in adult criminal court. If this is happening to your child, you need to be aware of their rights and your options going forward.

Charging as an Adult Is for Serious Crimes

Most crimes committed by a juvenile are considered to be serious, but not serious enough to merit a life-changing criminal conviction. Thus, most juveniles who are arrested for crimes in Connecticut will have their case handled in juvenile court, which focuses on rehabilitating young offenders and trying to help them understand the potential consequences of their actions. If a juvenile is judged to be delinquent, they can be assigned a probationary period, pretrial detention, or another non-judicial sentence if you have no prior criminal record.

Juvenile offenses can be anything from criminal mischief to possession of controlled substances, but there are other crimes that must be classified more severely. Connecticut law lists a host of specific felonies that are referred to as SJOs (serious juvenile offenses), which by law can be tried in the adult criminal court system. Examples include, but are not limited to:

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CT defense lawyerMany parents are not aware that until their children become adults, they remain responsible for their children’s actions. This can often come as an unwelcome surprise to parents who are surprised out of the blue by police at their door or by bills they did not expect. If you have been advised you may be liable due to your children’s actions, you need to consult an attorney who understands these cases so you can ensure both you and your child’s rights are protected.

Property Damage and Injury

The relevant Connecticut statute is fairly straightforward about the types of offenses for which a parent can incur liability. The key phrase is that a parent is liable when their child “willfully or maliciously” causes damage to any property or injury to any person. It is important to keep in mind that ‘intentional’ has to mean ‘without just cause,’ rather than simply someone choosing to voluntarily act. For example, if a child chooses to act in a way that is almost guaranteed to injure someone, it does not necessarily matter if they had no intention to injure anyone - they still acted in that way.

One specific offense for which parents are often held liable is auto theft by a minor child, especially if they cause damage to the vehicle. In auto theft cases, both parents and minors are often held jointly liable, to ensure that any financial damages are dealt with while the minor child is appropriately handled by the legal system. This is very often the ethos in these types of cases - looking out for the rights of juvenile defendants who may need guidance more than punishment, while still ensuring that injured parties are made whole.

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CT juvenile defense lawyerManson Youth Institute in Cheshire, Connecticut, is a prison for young offenders who have allegedly committed a crime serious enough to wind up in the state’s adult court system. As of July 2019, there were only 43 young boys confined at Manson. This represents a significant change from the historical numbers - in July 2016, 76 were registered, and the number has been dropping for years. If your child is arrested and charged with a crime, you should be aware that the Connecticut penal system has been undergoing changes in the way young defendants are handled.

A General Downward Trend

In the 2007-2008 fiscal year, approximately 1,491 young people under the age of 18 were confined at Manson. That number decreased by approximately 92 percent over the next decade, with 2018’s final figure being 105. This is a hugely positive trend, but there are multiple reasons for the drop in juvenile inmate numbers that may or may not still apply in your child’s case. There are still many cases in which a prosecutor will determine that Manson or a similar secure environment is the best place for your child.

One significant change that came to pass in the decade between the figures is that Connecticut raised the age of adult criminal responsibility (except in cases of serious violent crime like murder or sexual assault) from 16 to 18. Sixteen-year-olds were added back into the juvenile justice system in 2010, and 17-year olds were added back in 2012. This means that 16 and 17-year olds that commit crimes that do not immediately merit transfer to the adult system are more likely to be charged as juveniles.

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CT defense lawyerCountless numbers of children are bullied at school every year, which in turn can play a major role in a host of physical and mental health problems. However, most of the time, bullying does not rise to the level of crime. In the situations where it does, your child will need an attorney who understands the complexities of juvenile law, and who knows how best to ensure that their rights are protected.

Bullying Can Be Serious

Statistics indicate that only around 20 percent of middle and high school students reported being bullied, but almost half of all students in another study reported being bullied at least once within the preceding month. As high as 30 percent of middle school students (aged 11-14, roughly) reported being physically bullied, with examples of pushing, hitting, or slapping being given. Approximately 24 percent reported being on the receiving end of sexual comments or gestures.

Bullying can have devastating consequences, primarily for the victim, but also for the bully. Multiple studies show increased risk for ‘poor school adjustment,’ anxiety, depression, sleep issues and focus problems for victims. Many studies also show that the risk of increased suicidal ideation can occur in both the bully and the bullied. Intervention is critical to safeguard both young people, and hopefully to place the bully on a better path. Sometimes, however, this may not occur until a crime has been committed, and in that case, the consequences must be faced.

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